Friday, April 28, 2017

"Finding ways to win" and analyzing Anaheim line matchups

Oilers forward Zack Kassian fights Ducks Ryan Kesler in Game 1 of Round 2
Image courtesy of Edmonton Journal

"Finding ways to win"  

I've always had difficulty in understanding what that common canned cliche spouted by players in their interviews actually means.  I can't stand cliches.  What is "the way" exactly?

In looking at Game 1 vs. the Ducks, "ways to win" consisted of generally taking advantage of Gibson's weaker goaltending, but even with McDavid not really producing, he still has an incredible effect on the game.

1. McDavid drawing penalties
This put the Oilers on the PP more than once to take advantage of Ducks weak PK.  Many say he's been playing hurt or is suffering from the flu going around the team, but McDavid is still able to skate faster than anyone and draw hooks, and that's mighty valuable.

That counted for 2 goals from Letestu on the left side from a rebound off Gibson.

2. Behind the net goals
On several occasions, Nurse, Sekera and Larsson all saw lanes to the net.  Sekera went behind on left side and tried to slip one off Gibson and it almost went in with Gibson sprawling.  Larsson then tried the same thing on the right side and the puck deflected off of a Ducks d-man and went in, making it the game winning goal.  I believe the Oilers goalie coach Dustin Schwartz saw this weakness in Gibson and instructed the Oilers d-men to "go for it" and they then actually practised this drill.

That counted for 1 goal and almost 2.

3.  Poor line changes
The Oilers used to be bad on this in the season. The OT goal against the Sharks in game 5, they took advantage of their own line change where McDavid went off and Desharnais skated on, snuck inside down the middle to accept a perfect needle pass from Draisiatl and score. Where in Game 1 vs. the Ducks, the Ducks were caught on a bad line change while the Oilers were in the o-zone and Larsson saw an opportunity to pull a Desharnais, slipped into the middle, and again, got a perfect pass from Drai to zing a wrister for a goal.

4.  Shadowing McDavid
This strategy can backfire. It stymies Getzlaf on performing more offense and in taking offensive draws where he has to match with McDavid in draws in the d-zone, and it's proven to free Draisaitl to do this magic, which he most certainly has.  It's a one or the other situation, but the Ducks can't seem to stop both.

Analyzing Anaheim line matchups...
Courtesy of, the Corsi weighting per line/pair is displayed against the competition.
Below, the top 6x6 are the d-pair matchups and the rest are the forwards.

Main match-ups:

Anaheim d-pairs against Oilers d-pairs:
Fowler/Montour pair got beat by Oilers 1st pair (Klefbom/Larsson)
Lindholm/Manson pair got beat by Oilers 2nd pair (Sekera/Russell)
Theodore/Bieksa pair got beat by Oilers 3rd pair (Nurse/Benning)

Anaheim d-pairs against Oilers forward lines:
Fowler/Montour pair got beat by most Oilers lines
Lindholm/Manson pair beat Oilers 1st and 3rd lines
Theodore/Bieksa pair got beat by most Oilers lines

Anaheim forward lines against Oilers d-pairs:
Ducks Getzlaf 1st line got beat by Oilers 2nd pair (Sekera/Russell)
Ducks Kesler 2nd line beat most Oilers d-pairs
Ducks Thompson 3rd line beat Oilers 1st pair (Klefbom/Larsson)
Ducks Vermette 4th line pretty even with Oilers Desharnais 4th line.

Anaheim forward lines against Oilers forward lines:
Ducks Getzlaf 1st line got beat by Oilers Nuge 2nd line.
Ducks Kesler 2nd line pretty even with Oilers McDavid 1st line.
Ducks Thompson 3rd line beat Oilers Letestu 3rd line.
Ducks Vermette 4th line got beat by Oilers 3rd pair (Nurse/Benning)

Oilers beat Ducks in 8 main matchups
Ducks beat Oilers in 4 main matchups
No clear adv. in 2 main matchups.

While it seems Anaheim had more puck possession in the Oilers zone, they didn't have as many grade "A" chances.  These games are decided by slight edges, where the top six of each team usually matches up well against each other, the advantage goes to the teams with an edge on power plays and defensive or bottom six heroes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Oilers played like how Rocky fights

Game 1:

I attended the first Oilers playoff game in 11 years and being there at the new barn was one heck of a treat to myself. It felt like a reward after oh so many years of pain.  Not only that but it was my actual first NHL playoff game ever.  Shocked aren't you?  I didn't go to the games in 2006.  Watched them all on TV.  So let's say I've been saving up!

I saw Terry Evans, Bill Cowan, and Bryn Griffiths from K97 broadcasting from Match.  I always enjoy hearing them in the morning.  I also enjoy the Grand Villa Casino centre bar.  Reminds me of NYNY in Vegas.  After time with friends there, I headed over to watch the intro.

The crowd was electric.  It's nothing I've ever experienced.  I'm also happy the team plays metal instead of wussy music. "Seek and Destroy" from Metallica is perfect.  Gets me pumped.

Game start... the Oilers came out strong and with every hit Lucic made or touched the puck the crowd went nuts "LUUUUUUCH!".  Then zoom, Oilers popped two into the net.  It was amazing.

But then the overconfidence perhaps set in and in the 2nd and 3rd periods they were flat, couldn't hold on, and the Sharks circled.  I was amazed it went into overtime.  When the OT goal was scored by the Sharks though, all those disappointment feelings returned.  Everyone wanted to get out of there as fast as possible.

While exiting I zipped through the stages of grief until I landed on a glimmer of hope.  I told fans around me walking back to the parkade, "Always believe and never give up. Always believe and never give up."

I was right.

Game 2:

Game two I watched from a downtown bar with my wife.  While parts of the game made me nervous, the Oilers were much more composed and cool, except for Zack Kassian.  Holy, wow.  Bet the Sharks weren't expecting this freighter of a player to run ramshackle all over them.  Six big hits.  One shorthanded game-winning goal.  And of course, Connor had to get a shorty too. Man he releases fast. Ebs could learn a thing or to. But that goal was pure icing--but on the cake kind.

Hope returned.

Game 3:

This one my wife and I went to the arena for the first ever playoff watch party at the new barn.  While the upper seats were blocked off, the lower bowl was mostly filled.  About 11,000 fans showed up.  There were no bad views of the giant screen and we were in the last row of the lower bowl in the corner.  "Let's Go Oilers!" chants were rampant and the wave was nearly continuous.

The 1st period saw the Sharks hammer the Oilers with a bazillion hits and doubling the shots.  I was shocked the Sharks hadn't scored.  But then I started to notice the Sharks weren't really getting good chances which meant they were getting tired from all the hitting.

It was at that moment I knew the Oilers would win.

Just like Rocky Balboa would do.  Except weren't not in Philadelphia.  San Jose, man.  I've been there, very nice place by the way.  Geez, I have family there too.  Why didn't I think of flying down and staying with them and go to the game.  Oh, work.

Anyway, Oilers are Rocky.  2nd operiod the Oilers went toe-to-toe.  Sharks looked gassed.  Oilers needed to pounce but nothing was happening. It's what Rocky does.  He let's his opponent beat the crap out of him, which is out of the opponent's normal expectation. But he doesn't go down, and so his opponent is confused and tired mentally.  Then Rocky changes it up and starts using his left, which surprises the opponent.

"I know what I'm doing!"

And that's exactly what Todd McLellan did.

With no scoring, and the McDavid line getting clamped, McLellan made the brilliant move of moving Draisaitl to 3rd line centre and Kassian to 3rd line right wing, Slepyshev on McDavid's right side, and the former 3rd line to 4th line, to give:


Lines 1, 2, and 4 were then holding their own defensively and matching up better against San Jose's lines.  But it was the revamped 3rd line that had an advantage.

Draisaitl easily forechecked and put pressure on the Sharks, which caused them to make a mistake near the net, flipping the puck which hit Kassian, who took it on his backhand in front and slid it through Martin Jones five-hole.

Rogers Place erupted.  If there were no Oilers fans in San Jose, Rogers Place was definitely louder than the SAP Centre.

What would have been cool is if the camera in San Jose showed Oilers fans chanting at us in Edmonton and we could have gone back and forth or something.  Wouldn't THAT be neat?

Ah, we could feel them there anyway.

Then the crowed chanted "KAS-SI-AN! MVP!"  He's got those crazy intimidating eyes.

But props to the defense and Cam Talbot.  So many nerves were thwarted by their relentlessness.

I still worry about the Nurse-Benning pairing.  I'd limit those minutes in the defensive zone.

My work is allowing us to wear Oilers gear on game days.  The manager is wearing a jersey, as am I.

This is fun!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Oilers and McDavid exceed season expectations

PAST GAMES since start prediction:
+2 Red Wings -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+2 Islanders -> BAD WRONG (0)
0 Penguins -> GOOD WRONG (+1)
0 Canadiens -> BAD CORRECT (0)
+2 Stars -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+1 Bruins -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
+2 Canucks -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+1 Kings -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
0 Ducks -> BAD CORRECT (0)
+2 Avalanche -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+2 Avalanche -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+1 Kings -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
0 Sharks -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
+1 Ducks -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
+1 Kings -> BAD WRONG (0)
0 Sharks -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
+2 Canucks -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+2 Canucks -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
103 points total, (+5) ahead of prediction

Connor McDavid
100 points in 82 games (1.22 ppg)
+3 ahead of prediction

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Oilers and McDavid likely to exceed predictions

+2 Red Wings -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+2 Islanders -> BAD WRONG (0)
0 Penguins -> GOOD WRONG (+1)
0 Canadiens -> BAD CORRECT (0)
+2 Stars -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+1 Bruins -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
+2 Canucks -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+1 Kings -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
0 Ducks -> BAD CORRECT (0)
+2 Avalanche -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+2 Avalanche -> GOOD CORRECT (+2)
+1 Kings -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
0 Sharks -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
+1 Ducks -> GOOD WRONG (+2)
+1 Kings -> BAD WRONG (0)

97 points current after 79 games. 
0 points to meet prediction of 97 points
3 games remain.  

FUTURE GAMES (old prediction):
0 Sharks
+2 Canucks
+2 Canucks
4 points for 101 points total, (+4) ahead of prediction

Connor McDavid?
95 points in 79 games = 1.20 ppg
On track for 99 points total.  2 above prediction of 97 points.